Industry bodies have hit back at claims ‘intensive agriculture’ is to blame for big declines in insect populations.
A new piece of research, carried out by Francisco Sánchez-Bayo and Kris Wyckhuys, reviewed 73 historical reports of insect declines from across the world and attempted to assess the underlying drivers.
Their conclusions, which were widely reported in the national press, were that habitat loss by conversion to ‘intensive agriculture’ was the main cause of the declines, with ‘agro-chemical pollutants’ listed as an additional driver alongside climate change and invasive species.
But Sarah Mukherjee, chief executive of the Crop Protection Association, pointed out the review contained no new evidence and suggested the researchers had sought to blame agriculture for habitat loss while downplaying the effects of urbanisation, deforestation and population growth.
“Crop protection products play a fundamental role in ensuring land is as productive as possible, meaning more land can be left for nature and biodiversity,” she added.
“Moving to a less productive model of farming, as advocated in this report, would mean bringing more land into production, exacerbating the impacts on biodiversity and increasing habitat loss.
“As a recent study published in Nature concluded, modern productive agriculture is the best way to meet growing demand for safe, affordable food, whilst reducing agriculture’s environmental footprint and conserving biodiversity.
“Unfortunately, neither The Guardian nor the BBC appeared to deem that study worth of the same attention.”
Twitter users also criticised the researchers for including a study which showed the number of widespread butterfly species fell by 58 per cent on farmed land in England between 2000 and 2009, while failing to look at more recent UK Biodiversity Indicators which show increases in butterfly populations and stable pollinator populations.
Thanks @guardian but here are concrete FACTS from biodiversity Indicators 2018:— David Butler 🐄🌾🚜🇬🇧 (@DavidButler34)
Pollinator populations stable 2011-2016 & ⬆️ in 2016!🐝
Butterfly populations stable 2012-2017 & ⬆️ in 2017!🦋
Insect dependant bat populations ⬆️ every year between 1999 - 2017!🦇 #CutTheCrap pic.twitter.com/wXK6cdhcFC
Thanks @guardian but here are concrete FACTS from biodiversity Indicators 2018:— David Butler \uD83D\uDC04\uD83C\uDF3E\uD83D\uDE9C\uD83C\uDDEC\uD83C\uDDE7 (@DavidButler34) February 11, 2019
Pollinator populations stable 2011-2016 & ⬆️ in 2016!\uD83D\uDC1D
Butterfly populations stable 2012-2017 & ⬆️ in 2017!\uD83E\uDD8B
Insect dependant bat populations ⬆️ every year between 1999 - 2017!\uD83E\uDD87 #CutTheCrap pic.twitter.com/wXK6cdhcFC
NFU deputy president Guy Smith told Farmers Guardian he ‘did not suppose he would be the only farmer scratching his head’ about the review.
He said: “When you think of all the broad-spectrum contact insecticides our fathers routinely used, often applied by air, which we have given up, and when you think of all the floristically-enhanced, pollen-rich corners and margins we have established, sometimes you wonder why we bothered.
“Nonetheless, like most farmers, I will continue to manage my farm for both goals – producing food and producing wildlife.”
Proud that this film was shot on our farm in summer: thousands upon thousands of insects.— Tom Clarke (@Tom_Clarke)
Farmers feed you.
Farmers nuture the environment. #farmersaretheanswer@guardian @JustFarmersUK @FarmersGuardian @NFFNUK @Buzz_dont_tweet @ChrisGPackham t.co/POiXbyASJA
Proud that this film was shot on our farm in summer: thousands upon thousands of insects.— Tom Clarke (@Tom_Clarke) February 11, 2019
Farmers feed you.
Farmers nuture the environment. #farmersaretheanswer@guardian @JustFarmersUK @FarmersGuardian @NFFNUK @Buzz_dont_tweet @ChrisGPackham https://t.co/POiXbyASJA